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2002 file photo

K's bring back '1-0 Joe' & Thomas

It's time to dig those "1-0 Joe" T-shirts out of the closet.

Joe Franke, the equipment manager who gained international attention for going into a game as a goaltender with the Komets and leading them to victory in 2002, is back with the team.

He will be the Komets' equipment manager after a five-season hiatus.

Franke, a former equipment manager in the NHL with Pittsburgh, most recently worked with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League from 2008 to 2010.

"Joe Franke is one of the top equipment managers in professional hockey. Joe is dependable, hard working and an expert at profiling and sharpening player skates, managing equipment, et cetera," said David Franke, the Komets' general manager, who is not a relative.

The Komets also announced they have re-signed center Leo Thomas, who has 78 goals and 139 points in 182 games over three seasons with the Komets, helping them to IHL championships in 2009 and 2010.

"I'm happy to be back and I'm just looking forward to getting back to being the player I know I can be by just training harder this summer," said Thomas, 29, who wasn't protected by the Komets and was skeptical he would come to a contract agreement with Fort Wayne.

Last season, the Komets' first in the CHL, Thomas had 18 goals and 27 points in 50 games.

"I was free to go anywhere but we kept in touch and talked and were able to come up with a deal, which I'm happy about because I didn't want to go anywhere else," Thomas said. "I just want to prove to everybody and this organization that I still can be a scorer and a leader on this team, after not living up to my own expectations last year"

As for Joe Franke, the night in which he went into net against the Elmira Jackals is regarded as one of the most memorable games in the Komets' 59-year history and considered the event that turned a mediocre Komets team into a near-unbeatable UHL champion that season.

Franke, who was 42 at the time, hadn't been in an organized game since high school. He was forced into action because Tom Lawson had been called up and Pokey Reddick left the game because of illness with 11:03 remaining.

What followed became talked about on "Hockey Night in Canada," shown on ESPN and narrated on syndicated radio by Paul Harvey. Franke stopped 4 of 6 shots in regulation, assisted on a goal, and turned away 3 of 4 attempts in a shootout, including a diving save against Aaron Phillips in a 4-3 victory.

It so inspired the Memorial Coliseum crowd of 6,497 that hundreds held vigil outside the locker room chanting Franke's name for over an hour, and there continues to be talk that a movie of his story will soon be made.

Franke was fired in 2006 – the reasons were never made public – after 23 years with the team.

He couldn't be reached for comment and I don't know what this means for last season's co-equipment managers, Mark Bradtmueller and Andy Desmonds.

The Komets open the regular season Oct. 22 against Evansville at the Coliseum.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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